The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Isolated Navapur wakes up to peril

Mumbai, Feb. 23: Six days after the Maharashtra government apparatus started rolling into Navapur, the poultry town finally woke up today to the perils of a possible bird flu outbreak, even as police restricted the movement of people in and out of the town.

Faces covered with medicated masks and handkerchiefs were abundant on the roads of Navapur, just 2 km from the Gujarat-Maharashtra border. Even school-going children, who had been moving around without any kind of protection, today had their noses and mouths covered.

Police pickets have been set up at key spots on the border and inside the town to restrict movement of people.

Roads to Navapur were blocked and visitors alerted to drop in at health centres to pick up adequate protection before entering the town. Seven passenger and local trains were also restricted today.

The Navapur traffic check post, which sees a healthy trickle of trucks travelling to Surat, just over 100 km away, has been shifted to Ucchal in Gujarat so that they do not stop at Navapur. The bus stand has also been moved to the outskirts of the town.

Animal husbandry minister Anees Ahmed, who has been camping in Navapur since February 18 when the Bhopal lab confirmed strains of avian flu among poultry birds, said: “The situation is improving. All birds have been culled.”

The suspense over five human samples sent to the National Institute of Virology lab in Pune ended today as four of them tested negative.

“We had sent 95 human samples in the first lot out of which 90 had tested negative. Four more results were received today and all were negative. One more sample report is expected. But, clearly, we can say no positive sample has been received yet,” said Bhushan Gagrani, the spokesperson for the Maharashtra government.

A total of 202 samples from 174 people, including the first lot of 95, have been sent to the Pune lab, he added.

However, neither Gagrani, nor health secretary Vijay Satbir Singh could confirm whether the 13 people quarantined at the Navapur hospital had tested negative. Singh said that would be clear when the detailed reports from Pune arrive tomorrow.

Dr Pramod Doke, state health services director, hinted for the first time at the possibility of these patients in the isolated ward being discharged if they remained “normal”.

Gagrani said since the culling operations were completed yesterday, over 402 workers and officials are working to dispose of 3,000 metric tonnes of faeces and feathers of birds in the 52 poultry farms. Eight JCB machines, which work like earthmovers for removal of wastes, and 40 trucks have been deployed, he added.

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